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Planning Reform

Volume 689: debated on Monday 22 February 2021

We are transforming the planning system through recently announced changes and ambitious long-term reports. Our White Paper, published in August last year, proposes a comprehensive reform of the old planning system. We have also recently published changes to the calculation of local housing need, to enable more homes to come forward where we need them most, and the new national model design code, which will help to drive up the quality of new development.

Labour-run Kirklees Council’s local plan keeps seeing unsustainable housing developments being approved on greenfield sites, with shoddy build quality, flooding issues, and the allocated section 106 funding—supposedly for community infrastructure—just not coming through for those communities. What would the Minister say to my constituents, who are totally fed up with the shambolic planning situation under Kirklees Council?

I would simply say this: if my hon. Friend’s constituents are totally fed up with their shambolic council, they should totally get rid of their shambolic council at the local elections. If they want a party and a Government who will ensure that we have the best planning system that the hon. Gentleman wants—one that will ensure we introduce a raft of measures to drive better design and better quality, to minimise flood risk and to provide the real infrastructure that local communities want—they should vote accordingly at the local elections, and I suggest that they vote Conservative.

Thank goodness we are not having a political broadcast, as we now move to the shadow Minister in Yorkshire, Naz Shah.

Cumbria County Council has been hemmed in by the planning system over the application for the west Cumbria coalmine, which it will likely be forced to pass to avoid the threat of legal costs. This is despite the environmental damage and the small number of unsustainable jobs that the mine will create. Leaving aside fixing the flaws in a system that allows for the opening of a polluting coalmine in the year that the UK hosts COP26, will the Secretary of State now do the right thing on this issue of national—if not global—importance, block this application and work with his colleagues in the Cabinet to provide the long-term, secure and green jobs that west Cumbrians deserve instead?

The hon. Lady and the House know full well that our green credentials are second to none. The hon. Lady also knows that I will not and cannot comment on an individual planning application. What I can say is that there is a high bar to be passed for a local decision to be assessed by the Secretary of State. We believe—the law believes—that it is always best to leave local communities to make decisions for themselves, and that is what we have done in this case.